Look for increasing development of bioplastics for the medical market. In one of the more interesting announcements at last month’s MD&M show in Anaheim, CA, Arkema said it is in the process of developing a sustainable, bio-based acrylic polymer for medical devices that will feature extremely high impact strength. Introduction is scheduled for mid-2011.
No details are currently available, but it’s expected the compound will be an acrylic blended with polylactic acid (PLA), possibly in the 20 to 40 percent range. That route would be no surprise because Arkema is a major developer of additives that boost performance (particularly impact resistance) o of PLA, which is a thermoplastic aliphatic polyester derived from corn starch, sugar cane, and other crops, even tapioca.
Arkema scientists are looking for feedstocks that could produce acrylic in place of methyl methacrylate (MMA), which is in very short supply. Demand for MMA is rising, but supply is declining due to plant closings. Major chemical producers, such as Dow, are putting less emphasis on bulk petrochemicals. Climate change is also an issue in the biomonomer development, but not the key driver.
At the JEC Europe 2015 composites show in Paris last month, makers of composite materials, software, and process equipment showed off their latest innovations. This year's show saw some announcements related to automotive applications, but many of the improvements came in the world of aerospace.
The DuPont-sponsored Plastics Industry Trends survey shows engineers want improved performance in a broad range of plastics and better recycling technology. These concerns top even processing enhancements that improve productivity.
Plastics leader SABIC recently announced a global initiative to help its customers take advantage of additive manufacturing (AM) and also advance 3D printing (3DP) technologies in several application areas. The company's plans go way beyond materials, and also include design, processing, and part performance.
A theme that was reflected in several ways at NPE 2015 was the use of 3D printing to assist in, or improve on, injection molding, as well as improvements in 3D printing materials and processes that are making better functional prototypes and end-use parts.
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